Tag Archives: review

Review: Lazadas Blocking Wires

Recently, I was invited by astridl on Ravelry to review a set of blocking wires from her company, Lazadas. Since, like many crocheters, I have a love/hate relationship with blocking, I thought I’d share the review as part of my celebration of (Inter)National Crochet Month.

 

Blocking wires1

When the package arrived, I discovered that Lazadas Knitting Accessories is based in Israel.  Not to worry, as their products ship worldwide with a flat $5 fee.

Blocking wires2

The sets come in small packages with snap closures and handles.

Blocking wires3

The set package has a gusset so it can stand on its own.

Blocking wires4

I tried out the Mix Set, which includes four 35″ (90 cm) blocking wires, three 70″ (180 cm) blocking wires, and 30 nickel plated T-pins.

There are three other sets available.  The Short Set includes ten 35″ (90 cm) blocking wires, and is recommended for shawlettes, sleeves, sweaters, and cardigans.  The Long Set includes five 70″ (180 cm) blocking wires, and is recommended for stoles, big shawls, and baby blankets. Both sets include 30 nickel plated T-pins, and, like the Mix Set, are priced at $28.90.  The Deluxe Set includes ten 35″ (90 cm) blocking wires, five 70″ (180 cm) blocking wires, and 60 nickel plated T-pins and is priced at $56.

Blocking wires5

The wires are coiled and the package (wisely) advises you to carefully open them.

So… back to my love/hate relationship with blocking.  I only started blocking my crochet a few years ago when I started designing. As I’ve mentioned before, I prefer spray blocking. I don’t like my projects to get that “overblocked” look, so I generally avoid wet blocking and “killing” the fabric with steam. (If you’d like to try either of those methods, Tamara Kelly shares tutorials on wet blocking and steam blocking on the Moogly blog.)

blog Pineapples unblocked

To test out the wires, I chose this version of my Pineapples for Everyone Shawl pattern (available for free here in English and here in Italian).  This shawl is crocheted with SHOKAY Orient in Cerulean.  As you can tell from the pre-blocking picture above, it is a bit “squishy” looking and the pineapples aren’t very opened up.

blog SHOKAY Pineapples for Everyone blocking

Thankfully, simple instructions are included in the set as I’d never used blocking wires before.

In the past, I’ve applied seemingly endless amounts of pins across the edges of my projects. For this shawl, I used one 70″ (180 cm) wire for each side.  (If you look closely at the bottom of the picture above, you can see the excess of the wires sticking out.) With the wires, I could pin to shape just a few times and let the wires do their work.  I was also able to bend the wires on the bottom edges and pin them to allow the pineapples on the edges to fan out.

blog SHOKAY Pineapples for Everyone blocked

Here’s the shawl after blocking.  You can see that the edges are more defined, and it is less “squishy.”

blog SHOKAY Pineapples for Everyone blocked detail

The pineapples are completely opened up and they look great.

I have since used these wires to block several other projects, including two baby blankets, which I can’t share on the blog yet.  In each case, I found the process significantly easier than pin blocking alone, and the results were much neater looking.

I would highly recommend Lazadas Blocking Wires.  The package is small enough to be portable – with the gusset folded flat, it can easily flat.  At the same time, it stands up so you can find it on your shelf.  The wires are very flexible and easy to uncoil and recoil (carefully, that is).  The T-pins can easily be positioned so that they hold the wires in place. The instructions are straightforward and effective.

As for sizes, thus far, I have used the 70″ (180 cm) wires for everything except for squares/motifs.  I like having extra room on the edges, so the 35″ (90 cm) wires feel too short for most of my projects.  I have used the 35″ (90 cm) wires to block several squares at once.

I should also note that with one particularly fiddly blanket that I blocked, I needed more than the 30 pins in the set, so I used the quilting pins that I relied on previously to pin the rest of it.

If I were buying a set, I’d probably purchase the Long Set or the Deluxe Set, but if you mostly make smaller projects, the Short or Mix sets could work.  Thanks to the Lazadas Blocking Wires, I am now leaning much more closely towards a love/love relationship with blocking!

Edited to add: You can also find Lazadas on Etsy. The Etsy shop includes the blocking wire sets and other knitting accessories such as stitch markers, sock blockers, and needles.  (There are even a few crochet hooks.)

 

Full disclosure: A free Mix Set of blocking wires was provided by Lazadas.  Although I accept free products for review, I do not accept additional compensation, nor do I guarantee a positive review.  My reviews are based entirely on my honest opinions.

Yarn Review: Mountain Colors Twizzle

Back in November, the folks at Mountain Colors Yarns sent me these two hanks of a new-to-me yarn, Twizzle, to play with.

Mountain Colors Twizzle

I loved the look of this yarn so much that I had to snap a picture right away in the post office.  Twizzle is very soft – a fiber content of 85% Merino wool and 15% silk will do that.  The beautiful colors, which unfortunately, are not perfectly captured in this picture, are hand painted.  According to the Mountain Colors website, Logan Berry, on the left, is a “20 Year Vintage Color” and includes reds, tangerine, and purple.  Swift Current, on the right, includes dark navy blues with deep purple, pink and green.

It didn’t seem right to review a yarn without actually trying it out, so my first step was to wind the yarn.

Mountain Colors Twizzle Swift Current

I’m happy to say that both skeins wound up quickly and there were no tangles or knots in the yarn.

Since it was so close to the holidays, I decided to try the yarn out by making a holiday gift – a crescent shawlette for my sister.  I cast on about 10 times, experimenting with different needles and stitch patterns until I could find the right tension and a stitch pattern simple enough to showcase the yarn but interesting enough to keep me from napping.  Through all the ripping back and re-casting on, the yarn kept its shape and didn’t pill or split. 

Twizzle has a great feel, and unlike many soft yarns, it didn’t seem too loosely spun.  The colors are great and I love the tweedy look.  According to the website, it’s the “wool yarn plied with a strand of silk that creates a heathered effect.”

Soon, a lovely shawlette was flying off the needles.  A little too fast, actually.

Crescent shawl blog

In my haste (and because I was watching a very dramatic television show at the same time), I didn’t leave enough Swift Current to bind off with.  I didn’t want to rip back (after all, who wants to redo that last row of the shawl, the one with tons of stitches, again?), so I decided to try out the Logan Berry for the bind off.  Surprisingly, the two colors combined beautifully.  So much so that neither my sister nor mother realized it was a different color on the edge.

Mountain Colors Twizzle Shawlette flat

Each hank is a healthy size – 100 grams and approximately 250 yards.  The Mountain Colors website recommends size 4-6 (3.5-4 mm) needles, but I used size 11 (8 mm) needles.  I think I would probably use a size 9 (5.5 mm) for knitting a hat or scarf.  Admittedly, I tend to have a tight tension, but even Ravelry calls this a worsted weight yarn.

If you want to try out some Twizzle for yourself, you can find the list of shops carrying it here.  Mountain Colors also has 8 Twizzle patterns available where the yarn is sold, including the Twizzle Beanie (a one skein project) and the Back to Basics Pullover, which are also available online.  Overall, I would recommend Twizzle as an excellent luxury yarn.  It’s beautiful but also has enough yardage for you to make a nice project (such as my shawlette) with one skein.

Now I just have to wait and see what that Logan Berry skein wants to become…

Mountain Colors Twizzle Loganberry

 

Full disclosure: Two free skeins of Twizzle were provided by Mountain Colors Yarn. Although I accept free products for review, I do not accept additional compensation, nor do I guarantee a positive review. My reviews are based entirely on my honest opinions.

 

 

Crochet Hooks Review: Addi Swing and Comfort Hooks

Back in March, I did a series of crochet hook reviews and giveaways as part of National Crochet Month.  The generous folks at the Skacel Collection were also kind enough to send me some hooks to review, but I haven’t had a chance to post the review until now.

Crochet hooks donated by the Skacel Collection, including Addi Swing (left) and Addi Comfort Hooks (right).

You may remember that I first tried an Addi Swing hook last year, during my trip to Philadelphia.

Philadelphia Loop Addi Swing detail 2012-05-15
My first Addi Swing.

I’ll admit that at first, I was kind of wondering what the big deal was all about.  It turns out that I just needed to get used to the unusual shape of the Addi Swing, and then I found myself crocheting with it more and more.  For those of you who aren’t familiar with the Swing, it has a heavily curved handle made with two different textures of plastics.

The Addi Swing in US size A, donated by Skacel Collection.
The Addi Swing in US size A.

The hook handles are color coded, so if you have more than one, it’s easy to find the size you want.  (As you can see from the detailed picture above, the millimeter size of the hook is also clearly displayed on the end of the handle.)  Although the handles are large, they are lightweight.  The hooks feature a not inline point and throat.  Because the handle covers most of the hook, the shaft is very short.  This would be a great comfort hook for someone who likes a curved hook shape or a thicker handle along with a not inline hook.

I find that the large, brightly colored Addi Swing handle makes it much more difficult to lose than other hooks, which helps for those of us who crochet on the go!  On the downside, the relatively short shaft makes it difficult to form bullions and other stitches which require a longer shaft with this hook.

The Addi Swings are available in US Sizes A through L, and generally retail for about $13-$14.

Addi hooks

The Addi Comfort Hooks are another option for the crocheter who needs a longer shaft for forming different types of stitches.  Like the Swing, this hook handle also features two colors of plastic, making it easier to find the right size.  As with the Swing, the hook itself is a not inline shape with a curved point and throat.  The plastic handle is hardened but provides that extra thickness I look for in a comfort hook handle.  The more conventional shape of this handle means that it is easier to adapt to than the Swing.  These hooks are available in US sizes A through I, and typically retail at about $7.

You may be wondering if I will be offering a giveaway of these great hooks.  The answer is that I already did :).  I actually included these in the prize pack I mailed to yarnpumpkin for the Pineapples for Everyone Shawl CAL.

Pineapples for Everyone Shawl CAL prize pack, including hooks provided by Skacel Collection and yarn provided by Galler Yarns.
Pineapples for Everyone Shawl CAL prize pack, including hooks provided by Skacel Collection and yarn provided by Galler Yarns.

Yarnpumpkin was kind enough to share the picture she took of her wonderful prizes.

Crochet Hook Review and Giveaway: Lantern Moon Featherlight Hooks

Every Sunday during National Crochet Month 2013, I’ll be reviewing crochet hooks.  Today’s post features Featherlight crochet hooks, along with a giveaway for one hook, courtesy of Lantern Moon Handcrafted.

 

Lantern Moon has a beautiful, sustainably produced wooden hook for all of you inline hook lovers!

Lantern Moon Featherlight crochet hook.
Lantern Moon Featherlight crochet hook.

The Featherlight is made with an eco-friendly wood with a rich, dark color.  Like most inline hooks, it has a flat throat.  The hook has a long thumb rest.  I found the tip to be slightly pointier than most inline hooks, which I liked.  The end of the handle has a nice decorative look to it.

The wood is finished smoothly, and has a wonderful feeling against the hand.  As the name suggests, it is very light weight.  According to Lantern Moon, the wood is “organically treated to add density and hardness.” The hook size (in US letter, number, and mm) is written in white towards the center of the handle, and is highly visible against the contrast of the dark wood.

There aren’t any unusual features on the handle that change its shape, so this hook would be ideal for all different types of crochet.  You could even make a small Tunisian crochet project on this hook, because while the thumb rest is long, it doesn’t taper outwards as so many do so it wouldn’t stretch out your stitches.

This would be a great hook for a crocheter who prefers an inline hook, who prefers purchasing eco-friendly and ethically produced products, and/or who enjoys the comfortable feeling of a wooden hook.

The hooks are available in US letter sizes from D through K.  The retail price of the hooks are $18.90.

And, it’s no secret that I love my Tulip Etimo crochet hooks.  These are probably the set I use most regularly.  Lantern Moon is now U.S. distributor for these and other Tulip products!

 

Giveaway

When I contacted the nice folks at Lantern Moon to tell them about my plans to review a variety of crochet hooks during NatCroMo13, they were generous enough to send along a Featherlight US size I-9/5.5 mm hook for a giveaway for one lucky reader.

Lantern Moon prize pack

This giveaway is open internationally.  Enter by 11:59 p.m. Eastern time on Saturday, April 6, 2013.  

To enter:

  • Leave me a comment telling me about about your experience using Lantern Moon products.  Have you used their hooks or needles before?  If not, why do you want to try this hook?
  • For additional entries, like Underground Crafter on Facebook, follow Underground Crafter on Twitter, join the Underground Crafter group on Ravelry, and/or share a link to this giveaway on Facebook, Twitter, or your blog.  (And then, leave a comment here, on Facebook, on Twitter, or in the Ravelry group letting me know what you did!)
  • One winner will be chosen at random.

Good luck!

Crochet Hook Review and Giveaway: Laurel Hill Exotic Wood Hooks

Every Sunday during National Crochet Month 2013, I’ll be reviewing crochet hooks.  Today’s post features exotic wood crochet hooks, along with a giveaway for two hooks, courtesy of Laurel Hill.

After I (finally) learned to knit a few years back, my two best knitting pals bought me some really cool knitting needles for my birthday — two pairs of Laurel Hill square knitting needles, which I love to use for small projects.  These are some of my favorite needles, and I usually pack them when I’m teaching knitting.

At the same time, they bought me a Laurel Hill Nam Oc wood crochet hook.  Not too long after that, I won a Laurel Hill Tunisian crochet hook from a giveaway on Karen Ratto-Whooley’s blog.

My own personal Laurel Hill hook collection.
My own personal Laurel Hill hook collection.

I immediately loved the smooth and polished surface of the Laurel Hill Tunisian hook.  I’ve mentioned before that I find metal hooks quite uncomfortable for Tunisian crochet.  Like other wood hooks, these don’t experience the dramatic temperature changes of aluminum or steel crochet hooks, and they feel much gentler against the hands.  Both the standard and Tunisian crochet hooks from Laurel Hill are very smooth and don’t snag on your yarn.

But… I confess that when I first received the Nam Oc hook as a gift, I wasn’t really feeling it.  The neck is extremely tapered and, since I tend to hold my stitches quite low on the hook (closer to the thumb rest), I was having trouble getting an even tension.

A closer look at the shape of the Laurel Hill hooks.
A closer look at the shapes of the Laurel Hill giveaway hooks.

But then, when crocheting my way through the book Crochet Master Class: Lessons and Projects from Today’s Top Crocheters, I rediscovered the bullion stitch.  And that’s when I began to love tapered hooks.  If you’ve been struggling to get your hook through the many yarn overs in a bullion stitch, you will be thrilled to discover the exotic wood crochet hooks by Laurel Hill.  The rapidly tapered neck and the wide thumb rest allow you to keep those yarn overs loose so you can easily draw your hook through them to finish your bullion stitch.  By the way, if you’re looking for a good bullion stitch photo tutorial, I recommend Donna Kay Lacey‘s, available as a free Ravelry download.  (You can also check out my interview with her here.)

The Laurel Hill hooks are made from exotic woods that are sustainably produced.  The standard hooks are available in Nam Oc, Ebony, and Trai woods, while the Tunisian hooks are made from Forest Palm.  I’m no wood expert, and the feel across the types is very similar to me, though the Tunisian hooks seem to have a bit more glide (perhaps due to the finishing).  The different wood types each have a different color, which you might choose based on preference or for contrast with the yarn in your project.

I really love the Laurel Hill Tunisian hooks.  The distinctive color, smooth feel, and sharp point are perfect for medium sized, flat Tunisian crochet projects.  I also highly recommended the Laurel Hill exotic wood hooks for crocheters who love stitches where many loops are held on the hook, like bullions, puffs, or bobbles.

Both sets of hooks are affordable priced for wood hooks.  The Nam Oc and Trai hooks retail at $9, while the Ebony hooks retail at $10.  All three types are available in US sizes D through M (including the elusive size 7).  Laurel Hill also offers complete sets of each type of hook, as well as a “variety” set with a mix of Nam Oc, Trai, and Ebony hooks, which retails for $110.

The Tunisian Hooks are priced slightly higher, at $13 retail.  The Tunisian hooks are 10″ long and are available in US sizes D through N.

Giveaway

When I contacted the friendly people at Laurel Hill to tell them about my plans for reviewing their hooks during NatCroMo13, they were generous enough to send along two hooks – a Trai wood hook and a Tunisian crochet hook, both in US size I-9/5.5 mm – for a giveaway for one lucky reader.

Laurel Hill prize packThis giveaway is open internationally.  Enter by 11:59 p.m. Eastern time on Saturday, March 30, 2013.  

To enter:

  • Leave me a comment telling me about about how you would use these Laurel Hill hooks.  Why do you want to use wood hooks and what types of projects do you have planned if you win?
  • For additional entries, like Underground Crafter on Facebook, follow Underground Crafter on Twitter, join the Underground Crafter group on Ravelry, and/or share a link to this giveaway on Facebook, Twitter, or your blog.  (And then, leave a comment here, on Facebook, on Twitter, or in the Ravelry group letting me know what you did!)
  • One winner will be chosen at random.

Good luck!

Crochet Hook Review and Giveaway: Denise 2 Go

Every Sunday during National Crochet Month 2013, I’ll be reviewing crochet hooks.  Today’s post features the Denise2Go For Crochet kit, along with a giveaway for one set, courtesy of Denise.

A few years back, one of my very first crochet “investments” was to purchase a complete Denise Interchangeable Crochet Hook Set.

My Denise Interchangeable Crochet Hook set
My beloved Denise Interchangeable Crochet Hook set, missing an end button :(.

I have never been a fan of plastic hooks.  Before buying Denise hooks, I had many horrific experiences where a plastic hook snapped into pieces while I was crocheting and I was lucky to have both eyes afterwards.  So I was a bit leery of this set before reading all the great reviews.  With a retail price of $44.95, it was so much cheaper than the other interchangeable hook sets at the time that I decided to risk it.  (It didn’t hurt that the set was made entirely in the USA in a zero landfill environment.)

After the set arrived, I fell in love.  Although the hooks were plastic, they didn’t have the brittle seams that snag on yarn as other plastic hooks do.  I found it easy to assemble the cords and to build my own double-ended and Tunisian hooks.  And I’ve never had one break or even feel close to snapping.  I have since purchased extra hooks in some of my favorite sizes so that it is easier to do double-ended crochet projects.

For some reason, although I love metal hooks for “regular” crochet, I’ve always found them very uncomfortable for Tunisian and double-ended crochet.  And while bamboo hooks are great, when I’m crocheting on the subway commute, I don’t really want to be poking my neighbor with a 14″ long hook.  These Denise hooks have always helped fill that gap for me.  The plastic doesn’t feel as harsh to the touch as metal, and it doesn’t get cold in the way that metal does.  Using a cord (or multiple cords) allows you to have a long hook length without jutting out.

The Denise hook set is what I always pack when I travel.  I know that I’m going to crochet, but I’m not quite sure what projects will come to my mind.  Or what if my gauge is off?  Not to worry, because this kit includes so many size hooks, and I can also start a double-ended or Tunisian project.

Naturally, I planned to review these hooks for NatCroMo13.  I contacted the very friendly people at Denise, and they introduced me to the Denise2Go for Crochet, one of their newest products.  Today, I’m happy to review that set and offer one as giveaway, too.

Denise 2 Go closed

The Denise 2 Go kit comes rolled up in an attractive fabric designed by Lorna Miser.  (You can read more about this here in an interview from the Jimmy Beans Wool blog.)  This is truly something that can fit in your pocket (if you have jeans or something with sizeable pockets on, that is).

Denise 2 Go undressing

Each kit includes 6 hooks (in US sizes from H-8/5 mm to M-13/9 mm), 4 teal cords (in 3 inch, 5 inch, 9 inch, and 14 inch lengths) to coordinate with the case, 2 end buttons, and 1 extender.

Denise 2 Go open

For a crocheter who works primarily with sport/DK, medium/worsted, and bulky yarns, these hooks are a great range for projects on the go.

Denise 2 Go what is insideI love that the cords are a different color than the ones in my regular set.

Denise 2 Go Tunisian hookHere’s a hook set up I might use for a Tunisian crochet project.  I generally go up at least 2 hook sizes for Tunisian crochet to reduce the curl.

The kit retails for $39.95.  The frugal version of me would say you might be better off buying the full kit, since it has more hooks, cords, extenders, and end buttons.  The version of me that likes cute stuff and travels a lot would say you are better off buying the 2 Go kit since it is so darn adorable and it is even more portable than the full set.

 

Giveaway

When I contacted the generous team at Denise to tell them about my plans for reviewing their hooks during NatCroMo13, they were generous enough to send along two Denise2Go for Crochet kits.  Naturally, I kept one for myself :) and I’m offering the other one to one lucky reader.

Denise 2 Go prize

This giveaway is open internationally.  Enter by 11:59 p.m. Eastern time on Saturday, March 23, 2013.  

To enter:

  • Leave me a comment telling me how you usually crochet on the go – what type of projects and what type of hooks do you bring with you?
  • For additional entries, like Underground Crafter on Facebook, follow Underground Crafter on Twitter, join the Underground Crafter group on Ravelry, and/or share a link to this giveaway on Facebook, Twitter, or your blog.  (And then, leave a comment here, on Facebook, on Twitter, or in the Ravelry group letting me know what you did!)
  • One winner will be chosen at random.

Good luck!

 

Crochet Hook Review and Giveaway: Susan Bates Bamboo Handle Hooks

Every Sunday during National Crochet Month 2013, I’ll be reviewing crochet hooks.  Today’s post features the Susan Bates Bamboo Handle hooks, along with a giveaway for 2 hooks, courtesy of Susan Bates.

I mentioned last week that I don’t personally prefer in-line crochet hooks.  But as a crochet teacher, I know that many students find it more comfortable to use an in-line crochet hook.  Susan Bates seems to be the brand most associated with an in-line hook, and I wanted to make sure to review one of their offerings during National Crochet Month.

I first discovered the Susan Bates Bamboo Handle Silvalume Hooks in 2011, when I taught crochet to children at the Queens Library.  The central office ordered these hooks for the children to use in class.  I immediately noticed how helpful the large, bamboo handle was, especially for the younger children who hadn’t yet developed the fine motor skills required for using a smaller hook.

For people who regularly use Susan Bates Silvalume hooks or other in-line hooks with a sharp throat, the bamboo handle is a great option to provide more comfort when crocheting.  The handle only covers the lower half of the shaft below the thumb rest, so the throat and neck are the same length as other Susan Bates hooks.  This allows you to crochet any type of stitch (including bobbles and bullions) without adjustment.  The handle is solid, but the bamboo stays cool to the touch.  For those who find the temperature changes that pass through metal hooks too difficult for their hands, this would be a wonderful alternative.  Similarly, this hook is also great for crocheters who need a larger handle to prevent or reduce hand cramping.

And, for all you threadies out there, the Susan Bates Bamboo Handle hooks are also available in Steelite thread crochet sizes.  There aren’t as many comfort hooks for thread crocheters, so kudos to Susan Bates for offering an affordable option.

The Susan Bates Bamboo Handle hooks come in two variations:

  • Silvalume (aluminum for yarn) hooks have the size etched on the thumb rest and also come in different colors for each size.  These are available in US sizes B through N, including the elusive size 7 (4.5 mm).  The retail price is $2.75 per hook.
  • Steelite (steel for thread) hooks have the sized etched on the thumb rest but and are available in silver.  These hooks are sized from 0.9 mm through 2.7 mm.  The retail price is $5 per hook.

If you prefer an in-line hook with a sharp throat for yarn crocheting, or if you are looking for an affordable comfort hook for thread crochet, I recommend the Susan Bates Bamboo Handle hooks.

 

Giveaway

When I contacted the nice folks at Susan Bates to tell them about my plans for reviewing the hooks during NatCroMo13, they were generous enough to send along a prize pack of 2 different Susan Bates Bamboo Handle Hooks (one Silvalume in US Size I-9/5.5 mm and one Steelite in US Size 5/1.7 mm) for me to share with one lucky reader.

Susan Bates Bamboo prizes

This giveaway is open internationally.  Enter by 11:59 p.m. Eastern time on Saturday, March 16, 2013.  

To enter:

Good luck!

Crochet Hook Review and Giveaway: The Crochet Dude Ergonomic Hooks by Boye

Every Sunday during National Crochet Month 2013, I’ll be reviewing crochet hooks.  Today’s post features the Crochet Dude ergonomic hooks, along with a giveaway for 6 hooks, courtesy of the Crochet Dude by Boye.

Last summer, I was the happy winner of a giant box of crochet fun through a giveaway on Robyn Chachula‘s blog.  One of the many goodies tucked away into this prize package was a Crochet Dude ergonomic aluminum crochet hook.

The hook that got me hooked.
The hook that got me hooked.

I’ve always been a huge fan of Boye hooks – I have a collection of sizes B through P in my hook drawer, and I even have several sizes of steel Boye hooks for cotton thread.  I prefer not to use an inline crochet hook, and so naturally Boye became my “go to” brand over the years.

But as crochet has become a bigger and bigger part of my life – and especially when I’m crocheting on a deadline – I’ve found that a solid aluminum hook can put too much stress on my hands.  In the last 18 months or so, when I start a crochet project I usually reach for a comfort hook.

After using Boye hooks regularly for over 20 years, I know readily what size hook to use with different yarns and can be pretty consistent about my gauge.  This familiarity was what excited me about the Crochet Dude ergonomic crochet hooks.

Each Crochet Dude ergonomic hook features the familiar Boye point and throat with a molded, soft handle covering most of the hook’s shaft.  The handle is squared towards the middle, has a flattened thumb rest, and then tapers down at the end.  Each size comes with a different color handle and the size in etched on the handle in both US letter size and millimeters.  These features allow you to quickly pick up the right size if you have a full set.

The Crochet Dude ergonomic crochet hooks provide cushioning and comfort while allowing me to use my preferred type of point and a tapered throat.  It’s  one of the most affordable comfort hooks on the market.  (The suggested retail price is $5.99 per hook.)

Like most comfort hooks, the shaft of the hook is mostly covered by the soft handle, so the Crochet Dude ergonomic hook isn’t ideal if you are doing certain dimensional stitches (like bullions or puff stitches) where you may need more space to keep multiple loops on the hook, or where a tapered shaft might make it easier to work the stitch.

My overall review: The Crochet Dude ergonomic crochet hook is a great, affordable comfort hook option for a crocheter who doesn’t need an inline hook.

Giveaway

When I contacted the nice folks who manufacture the Crochet Dude by Boye collection to tell them about my plans for reviewing the hook during NatCroMo13, they were generous enough to send along a prize pack of 6 different ergonomic Crochet Dude hooks (in US sizes B, E, G, H, I, and L) for me to share with one lucky reader.

Crochet Dude by Boye prize pack

This giveaway is open internationally.  Enter by 11:59 p.m. Eastern time on Saturday, March 9, 2013.  

To enter:

  • Leave a comment telling me about what you would make if you won these six ergonomic Crochet Dude by Boye hooks.
  • For additional entries, like Underground Crafter on Facebook, follow Underground Crafter on Twitter, join the Underground Crafter group on Ravelry, and/or share a link to this giveaway on Facebook, Twitter, or your blog.  (And then, leave a comment here, on Facebook, on Twitter, or in the Ravelry group letting me know what you did!)
  • One winner will be chosen at random.

Good luck!

Vacation non-yarn haul and LYS review: Finely a Knitting Party

One of the yarn shops I planned to visit during my trip to Pennsylvania was out of business, so I decided to add another shop to my list. Since I was staying just one train stop away from Swarthmore, I planned a visit to Finely a Knitting Party on my way back to New York.

The shop is conveniently located about a block and a half from the Swarthmore train stop.  Finely a Knitting Party feels quite different from the three yarn shops I visited in Philadelphia.  You can tell it is the only yarn shop in town, because it doesn’t seem concerned with establishing a particular niche.

The yarn is sparsely arranged on cubby shelves and there is plenty of space to walk around.  The selection is dominated by a few brands like Brown SheepClassic Elite, Crystal Palace, and Plymouth Yarn.  There was a good range of fiber types, but most of the yarn seemed basic and no frills – the kind of yarn  that most people would want access to if there was only one yarn shop in town.  Anything that was slightly unusual was also pricey.  The one skein of yarn I was really drawn to was Mushishi but it was outside of my strict travel budget.

I didn’t see any crochet hooks or other signs that the shop might be crochet-friendly.  There was a selection of knitting needles in a few brands behind the counter.  The shop has a large table in the center of the store’s main room for classes.  The schedule online shows that there are daily classes, and there are pictures posted throughout the store of cheerful students holding up completed projects.  This looks like the type of LYS where you can meet new knitting buddies and hang out.

I love handmade soap, so I decided to buy some Sioux City Soap instead of yarn.

These three soaps smell amazing...

but I can’t understand why the brand is called Sioux City, since it is made locally in Pennsylvania?

Since I was on a skin care kick, I also bought this lotion.

I know I'm not the only crocheter/knitter troubled by dry skin.

As I mentioned, this shop carries a solid selection of basic yarns and looks like it has a lot of fun classes.  I’m not sure it is worth a special trip to visit, but if I’m in the area again, I might stop by.

Vacation yarn haul and LYS review: Philadelphia, PA


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Last week, I took my dream vacation and spent a few days at Pendle Hill in Wallingford, PA.  The main purpose of the vacation was to relax, enjoy the silence, (wait, what is this?  some kind of retro pop music playlist??), spend some time outdoors, and live an unscheduled life, and what’s more relaxing than a trip to the yarn shop?

I’ve been on a pretty severe yarn diet since December, so I planned to splurge during my trip.  On Tuesday, I decided to spend the day in Philadelphia visiting yarn shops.  I gave myself a budget of $25 per shop.  Since I wanted to spend time outside, I actually walked from shop to shop and back to the train station (about 5 miles, according to Google Maps, plus the mile to and from the train station in Wallingford).  It was one of those days when it alternates between pouring rain and sweltering heat, so I thank all of the shops I visited for allowing my presumably stinky self inside!

How did I develop my list?  First, I stopped by the Crochet Liberation Front Headquarters group on Ravelry and looked at their list of Crochet-Friendly LYSs.  Though I now knit also, I want to spend my money where crocheters are respected and appreciated!  Then I got directions from Google Maps and wrote them down on a piece of paper.  (Then, I got lost and ended up using the Hop Stop app on my phone, which actually seemed to provide more concise routes.)

Stop 1: Rosie’s Yarn Cellar

 

Rosie’s Yarn Cellar is a small, quiet shop that’s down a short flight of steps.  The staff are very friendly and helpful, but in a quiet way.  There is a store dog (a pug, if memory serves), who makes some very cute little sounds while trying to kill his toy duck.

The store has a great selection for a shop of its size and a broad range of prices.  I saw yarns for $5 as well as yarns for $30.  The prices seemed the least expensive of all the shops I visited, and were certainly lower than NYC prices.

It took me a while to figure out how this store got its crochet-friendly reputation, but it does have an entire shelf of crochet books, and crochet hooks behind the counter.  I was super amazed that knitting needles are out on display for you to browse and right next to the door.  (You can tell you’re not in New York City!)

My favorite feature of this shop is the little signs by each yarn that tell you the details you would find on the label (e.g., fiber content, suggested gauge and needle size, brand name) as well as the price.  This made for much easier browsing.  For people who like to buy patterns in the shop, there had tons of binders listed by project type.

It was great to see yarns that I haven’t found locally like Araucania, Bijou Basin Ranch, Mountain Meadow Wool Mill, and O-Wool.  In the end, I decided on a skein of Ella Rae Lace Merino that was on sale.

The colorway is 126.

I still haven’t decided if I think it is more black or more blue.  I hope it will one day work itself into a project for me – perhaps a pair of socks?  (Sock people, tell me now if this is a good choice or if I should move on to another project idea!)  I’m still dreaming about that Mountain Meadow Wool Mill yarn, but I didn’t want to go over budget by getting two skeins.

I was somewhat bewildered by this sign in the window.

Where do they fit the classes???

Stop 2: Sophie’s Yarns

I decided that my next stop should be furthest from the station and that I would work my way back.  I guess I should have done more research, because after a very long walk, I discovered this shop was closed.  I was surprised because usually Yelp seems to be updated when a shop shuts down, but it was still listed.

Stop 3: Nangellini Gallery

After briefly mumbling to myself, I continued on my journey and went to Nangellini Gallery.

This shop  is in an artsy looking area and has a very funky vibe to it.  When you enter, the first room is more of a gallery space with freeform, funky, artsy wearable projects on display.  I’m embarrassed to say that I had a great picture of this room, but I accidentally saved over it.  (D’oh!)  You can find hooks and needles on a display rack on this floor as well as some notions like shawl pins and stitch markers.

On the upstairs level, you can find yarn as well as some spinning supplies like drop spindles and batts.  The yarn selection completely fits the vibe of the store, and there is a lot of novelty and highly textured yarn, as well as chunky, multicolor yarn.  There is a very small collection of crochet books, but it includes some freeform books that really fit into the store’s theme.  There’s also a section of crochet cotton.

I don’t use novelty yarn or very bulky yarns too often, so for a while I was debating whether I should buy anything.  And then I saw this.

Of course!

I ended up with a skein of Nancy’s Hair by No Two Snowflakes.  I confess I picked it because it was superwash merino and had the most yardage of anything in the local section.

They asked me if I wanted it wound, and I said why not! (I then realized that the folks at Rosie's Yarn Cellar didn't ask, but I couldn't imagine where they would fit a winder anyway.)

I think this will probably end up as a gift for my best friend from high school, CG.  She is an artist and wears a lot of bold colors.  Also, she would actually find the story of how I got the yarn entertaining.  (And, she’s already on my Holiday Stashdown Challenge list.)

The staff at this shop are very friendly in a more conversational way.  While I was in the shop, an older customer came in with a wedding dress her mom had made her in acrylic yarn (insert large number of years) in the past.  Everyone oohed and aahed and I could tell you can get as much attention as you want in this shop.  There are also some comfy chairs in the gallery area.

Stop 4: Loop

Almost there!

By the time I arrived at Loop, I was tired and a bit nervous about catching the train back in time for dinner, so I didn’t browse for as long.

Loop reminded me the most of a New York City yarn shop.  It has a large table in the center (presumably for classes and hanging out) and I was familiar with more brands of yarn being sold in the shop, like Berroco, Brooklyn Tweed, Malabrigo, and Spud & Chloe.  It was a bit pricier than the other shops as well.

When I saw the display of Addi Swing hooks near the counter, I immediately understood why this shop was labelled crochet-friendly.  And, I gave myself permission to go $13 over budget since I only visited three (instead of four) shops.

It’s always hard to pick a hook size when you are buying just one new hook.  In the end, I decided to go with an I, which is probably what I use most often.

As for the yarn, since a lot of the brands are available at my LYS, Knitty City, I decided to get two skeins of Sheep 2 from the Sheep Shop Yarn Company (now defunct) which were on sale.

The colorway is Brown.

This should match my winter coat, so I see some winter accessories in my future!

Loop also has a rewards program and $5.95 flat rate shipping for web orders.

Do you have a favorite Philadelphia yarn shop?